"My name is Rob and I’ve been in Lowestoft all my life. "
So how come you ended up sitting here?
"My father committed suicide 3 years ago and I was meant to meet the rent officer and I went a bit AWOL and I didn’t meet the rent officer to sort everything out so the landlord changed all the locks and I ended up homeless.
Rob, with Bonnie
I have got a mate who puts me up, in the evenings when he gets in but that’s only for the next week or so and then we’ll be stuck again. I’ve sort of been going between friends every couple of days, trying not to get under their feet. Luckily I’ve got some good friends.
I was in an awful place down Denmark Road. There was all mould up the walls, no electricity or anything. I know there’s a hostel in town but they won’t have anything to do with pets. I’ve had these so long I couldn’t part with them."
Tell us a bit about your dogs?
"This is Bella, she’s coming on 17. I’ve had her since she was a puppy and this is her daughter Bonnie, and she’s 13. Bella’s not too well. She’s got a couple of growths on her belly… breast cancer and another tumour on her leg, but that’s shrunk.
The RSPCA’s been really looking after us, they help pay for the vet fees and the dogs get checked on regularly. It’s really hard, we’ve been trying to find somewhere to live for this winter. Another cold winter I don’t think I can hack it, let alone the dogs, bless them. There are some squats in Lowestoft but they’re not very pleasant."
How do you get treated by shoppers?
"Most people are quite nice, I do get a bit of abuse now and again but most people are quite nice. I do get moved on occasionally and if it’s raining I’m not allowed to sit in the Britten Centre, but I don’t get too much hassle.
I suppose I am a beggar as such but I never ask people for money. Obviously if people give me some change it helps keep the dogs fed. I’m on job seekers allowance but that’s only £50 a week and that doesn’t go far. There is no where to cook at my mate’s house so it’s all take away food and that is expensive. I must admit I smoke as well and that adds to the bill."
What’s your hope for 2005?
"My hopes for 2005 are for a roof over my head, just a one room little bedsit flat. I’d be the happiest person on the planet. Just somewhere to stay warm, with electricity and that. And a job.
It’s not feasible to get a job unless you’ve got somewhere to live. I’d take anything now but at the moment I can’t properly keep clean. I do sometimes strip wash in the public toilets to try and stay clean and I’m aware that you do smell a bit when you’re living on the streets. An employer wouldn’t want you if you couldn’t keep clean."
Are there many homeless people in Lowestoft?
"I know four or five other homeless people in Lowestoft but there’s probably more. We don’t look out for each other. It’s a solitary life. You’ll say hello and that but I wouldn’t say anyone looks out for me, anymore than I do for them."